Scott's Column
The House Starts! Plus a Linksys Router/Hub & New Camcorder

June 1, 2001
By Scott Lewis

It has been a busy month. We started the house. Officially! We bought a new camcorder to be sure we would be able to record the entire process. Also, I upgraded my home network with a Linksys Router/Hub.

The House

The foundation got officially started on Friday, May 4th. We have a difference of about 10' between the front/right corner of the house and the left/rear corner of the house. It is amazing (Yikes!). My brother-in-law ran a quick survey a couple of months ago and came up with 9 feet 4 inches difference. When we were close to finishing up the clearing of the land I thought he was crazy. I swore the top corner was below my eye level when standing at the lowest point.

As it turns out the land is a huge optical illusion. This became extremely evident when we put up the temporary electric connection. It is on a pole that must be vertical. If I didn't see my brother-in-law put a level against it I would not believe that it was right. It looks like it is slanting and all the trees around it are straight. Obviously the trees are all crooked, and the land slopes so badly that your body and eyes make up for it letting you think it is not that bad.

The back porch is at the same height as a couple of trees just behind the house. When standing on the porch a person will be looking down on those trees. My brother-in-law said, "I hope you like looking at shrubs." Because that's what it will seem like looking at the trees in our backyard. My wife and I look at it this way... we will have an even more amazing view of the Texas Hill Country.

Since the foundation estimate was based on numbers provided by my brother-in-law, they were not accurate enough. Also, we changed our minds and decided to go all brick instead of Rock/Stucco. We did this because we got an amazing deal on the brick. We the plans didn't have the brick lug on it that the foundation guy used for his estimate. So between the excessive finally survey of the land and the brick lug the price could be up to $4,500 more than the estimate. Ouch! Now we are scrambling to find places where we can cut back. I think I will definitely do all the floor tile work and save that $2,000.

The plumber and foundation guys have been going back and forth with there progress. The foundation should be poured by the time you read this. We are planning to have a "slab party" when the foundation is dry. I'll keep you posted.

I built an online calendar for the house project. I plan to take a picture every time I go to the land. I will post at least one picture from every visit.

Camcorder - Digital vs. Analog

Our old camcorder (an 8mm Sony unit) was giving us so much trouble that we decided it was time to replace it. When my wife started looking I only said I would want a digital camcorder so that eventually I could upload the film to a computer.

Best Buy offered an 18 month no interest deal that was too temping to pass up. For those of you that know me, you know I never pay any interest on my Best Buy card. We always wait for their specials and always pay the card off before any interest would accrue.

That said, we headed off to get a Sony Digital8 camera. The fact that my old Sony went bad does not bother me too much. I have a lot of Sony equipment, and find them to usually be extremely reliable. We settled on a Sony TRV330 Digital8 camcorder because we have about eight 8mm tapes and no way to play them. The Digital8 camcorder will play the old tapes, and even allow me to import them into a computer through the iLink (also known as FireWire and IEEE 1394) connection.

The picture quality is grainy in low light. I have done some reading online and I have seen this to be a trend. Maybe they should put flashes back on these camcorders. I heard that turning off the steady shot reduces the grainy-ness of the picture. I will test this over time. For the moment I have been trying to film the house project. This is done in daytime with lots of natural lighting.

Still I noticed that the resolution is a little low. When played back on my 65" TV it looks pixilated. It looks very nice on our 27" TV. Be forewarned if you plan to use a camcorder to play back on a really large TV... you will be disappointed with the picture.

Linksys Router/Hub

When I first networked my laptop and desktop computer I did so the cheapest way I could. I bought a second Ethernet card for my desktop, and bought a 25' Cat 5 crossover cable. I connected the two together and shared the Internet connection.

It works well, but has its problems. Frequently one computer will effect the other. I blame this on Microsoft and their week networking in Windows 98 and Me. I would have to frequently reboot both machines if I had trouble with either. Also, some of my son's games would completely stop any kind of sharing. I couldn't even print from the laptop (the printer is connected to the desktop) if my son was playing Land Before Time.

One of the reasons for doing the Network-on-the-Cheap routine was because we did not know how much we would use it. Well my wife and I have become addicted to using the laptop while connected to the Internet.

So I bought a Linksys 4 Port Cable/DSL Router/HUB. As it turns out this is one of the easiest pieces of hardware I have ever setup. I skipped over most of the instructions going straight to the section where you enter the address of the router for setup. The browser could not find the setup page. Then I remembered that I had setup my network with fixed IP addresses. Setting my computer to "Obtain an IP address automatically" fixed the problem. Then everything went exactly as it was supposed to. No problems!

I should tell you that if I had followed all the instructions I would not have encountered my small problem. The instruction manual tells you to setup your computers for dynamic addressing (DHCP) prior to the page I jumped into.

I set an option on the Linksys setup screen to keep the connection active. My DSL modem is a PPPoE device which acts as an "on demand" broadband connection, as opposed to cable modems which are truly "always on." So far my overall Internet performance seems better with the Linksys. I attribute that to the setting that keeps the connection active. This will take more time to be sure, but I don't notice any of the occasional delays I first noticed (and got used to) when the DSL modem was first setup.

I highly recommend the LinkSys Cable/DSL Router/HUB. I wanted to get the new wireless version of this router/hub, but alas they did not have any in the store, and it was $150 more online that the one I bought. I will wait until I am in the house next year to try the wireless thing. Maybe wireless speeds will be faster then.

Rio 600 Update

I have decided to post a small comment about the Rio every month at the end of this column, until they put out the memory expansion I was promised 5 months ago. 

If you have read this column regularly you know my disappointment with SonicBlue and the Rio line. I was told before Christmas 2000 that the 64 MB and the 340 MB backpacks would be available by Christmas. The 340 MB backpack was the deciding factor for me getting the Rio 600. Had I known the backpack would not be available in time for me to use while working on my house project I would never have bought the Rio.

I have really enjoyed listening to the Rio 600 while working on the land/house. When I am working with my brother-in-law I only put one earphone on. I let the other dangle inside my shirt. When I am working alone I put both earphones on. I love it.

Too bad I can't get a decent memory expansion for a decent price. I can't justify spending $200 for the new 128 MB backpack, especially now that Creative lowered the price of their Nomad Jukebox to $299. In fact, Creative is offering a $269 Jukebox C that leaves out the headphones & case, and has only one set of batteries. If it lasted more than 4 hours on a charge I would consider getting it. Also, Best Buy had a $75 rebate for the Archos 6 GB player, bringing its price to $274 (349-75).

I am very temped to get the Archos or Jukebox and leave the Rio behind. However, I have heard that Creative is going to come out with a new, smaller Jukebox this fall. Also they will be coming out with a "more square" shaped device that will also have a hard drive for storage this fall. These two new products should be worth checking out. I have also heard that when DataPlay enabled players hit the market it will be worth waiting for.

If SonicBlue wants to keep me as a customer they better get out the IBM Microdrive based 340 MB backpack or the DataPlay 500 MB backpack soon. And reasonably priced! Father's Day is just around the corner. It would be nice to ask for a backpack as a present instead of a new player.

I thought twice about the proprietary memory in the Rio. Next time I will not think twice... I will follow my first thought and not get it.


That does it for this month. I am very excited about the house. In fact, I am so excited I am planning on how I can fill the third drive bay of the garage. Watch my Car Corner column over the next few months to see what I am planning.